Historiker*innen (Berlin Take)

06.09.2019 –

Historians (Berlin Take)

Eiko Grimberg, Jana Engel, Arne Schmitt

Haus1 | Waterloo Ufer 1 | Berlin

Opening reception | 6 September | 19:00

Opening hours | Wednesday–Sunday, 14:00–18:00

In architectural moments, the Historiker*innen recognize representations of the ruling classes. Characteristic of today’s rulers or elite is that their representation does not possess much of a newly conceived, independent form; instead, aesthetic appearance is dug up from history. Contemporary structures that serve to represent rulers are wrapped in historical costume. Yet often these costumes often don’t fit quite right; they are fragile and look foolish. One of the oldest and most powerful (but also the most corny) architectural elements is the ancient pillar.

In her film Treasury Vol. III (Icons), Jana Engel collected emblems of banks in which such pillars or columns are depicted. The ancient pillar ought of course to represent stability, but today banking is a form of business that finds itself in jeopardy. Real ancient pillars and columns are usually part of a landscape of ruins, and the institutions that originated these structures did not stand the test of time either. In Haus1, Jana Engel exhibits a landscape of ruined pillars, which she made out of sugar. Their surfaces sparkle, as if one is looking at a valuable material – though the price of industrial sugar is in fact very low. This was not always the case: sugar was one of the first important colonial goods in the early emergence of the world market. The pillar elements that Jana Engels exhibits can be recognized as cladding had been set around a core. //Now they have become fallen clothes.

In his photographic work Rückschaufehler, Eiko Grimberg has been monitoring the reconstruction of the Berlin Palace since 2011. The Royal Palace, predominantly in Baroque style, was demolished under the German Democratic Republic to make room for the Palace of the Republic, which, after German reunification, in turn, was demolished in favour of a reconstruction of the Royal Palace. Architecture in service of rulers or empire is thus never eternal, if only simply because no rule is forever. In his work, Eiko Grimberg traces the myths surrounding the palace. If the rumours are true and parts of the blasted palace ended up in an ape enclosure in East Berlin’s Tierpark, then the GDR administration did indeed have some sense of humour. And the notion that the bronze from a melted down Stalin statue was used to cast a sabre-toothed tiger for the Tierpark, or that the polished marble cladding from the Reich Chancellery was used in the construction of the nearest underground station, smiles on the “irony of history”. Eiko Grimberg follows these traces. The term “Rückschaufehler”, or “hindsight bias”, points to a tendency to distort the memory of one’s own past predictions, based on what we know now of the actual outcome. We correct our predictions after the fact. We do not want accept how wrong we might have been. Berlin’s various urban legends and realities, which he pursues in this project, have in common that they desire to correct history.

In Arne Schmitt’s series of photographs titled Kunst nach 45, he captures various constructions: garage entrances, underpasses, office buildings, art in public spaces. These constructions are usually, in a broad sense, attributed to the period of post-war modernism in Germany. “Art after 45” is a rather fuzzy term for art that was made in the period after the war. Both art informel and conceptual painting are included, as well as the art group ZERO or the work of Joseph Beuys. Certain auctions and galleries specialize in “art after 45” – although the term does not describe a specific style. And yet it attempts to stand for a new and innocent German art, which has nothing to do with either “before 45” or “before 33”. It represents a kind of historical amnesia, which operates in a similar manner in architectural discourse. The cropped views of structures in Schmitt’s works remind the viewer of indeterminate works of West German post-war art.